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Avoiding Possession, Distribution or Manufacturing Federal or State Child Pornography Prosecution

Most people don’t want anyone going through their internet history. Perhaps you look at adult porn websites occasionally, or maybe a lot. That’s totally your business and most of us want to keep it that way. Recent statistics show that at least 43 percent of women and 88 percent of men reported internet porn use in the year. Almost everyone does it, but most of us don’t want anyone to know a thing about it! It’s private and a little embarrassing.

Suppose one night after a few drinks, you go into your office and start working and for some strange reason you start going down that dark hole looking at porn. You know you will hate yourself afterward, but you do it anyway. The dopamine pushes you to keep clicking. Five minutes later, you’re on a site that depicts all sorts of depraved acts you didn’t even know were on the web, let alone try to find. You get sucked in and keep clicking because it’s like seeing a car accident.

One more mindless click of the mouse leads you to a site that takes forever to load. You’re about to close the browser, realizing that you are staring mindlessly at a blank screen late at night, wasting time when a string of images suddenly pops up. You scroll way down — dozens if not hundreds of pictures are there. The pictures look like normal porn, tame even, at first glance, and you click on a couple of them, which immediately downloads them to your hard drive without you wanting that to occur Then you scroll down a little bit more and suddenly you realize that you are looking at pictures of minors. You’re looking at child pornography!

Adrenaline hits you hard, and you then wake up and snap to attention, knowing what a serious offense child pornography is. You close out immediately and then delete your internet browsing history. Meanwhile, you may not realize or remember that you have a file-sharing app that you use for music and video news. It is running all the time on your computer when it is turned on. Those images that were automatically downloaded are now being shared to thousands of other users on your file-sharing app. Unaware, you have now just distributed child pornography!

This may sound like something that is farfetched, but variations of these issues with shareware and social media files occur all the time.

Innocent people that were downloading pornographic images from peer-to-peer file-sharing networks or social media outlets often think that they have turned off the file-sharing settings, only to realize too late that they did not do so. They don’t realize that they have already potentially committed a crime by downloading the images to their hard drive. A recent ruling in the state of Maryland found that if a person uses computer browser software they should know and understand how the basic faucets work. Other technical information is taken into consideration, but the excuse that I turned off the share portion of the program usually won’t be effective. The issue is knowledge and consent.

With the uptick of computer use and “living online” in society federal and state authorities have beefed up sting operations throughout Maryland, Pennsylvania, DC, and Virginia. You should absolutely be concerned if you are delving into this type of activity or even skirting around the edges.

Deleting your hard drive won’t always fix the problem because of how the download is traced through browsers. By that time, it’s too late. Federal and State police have very sophisticated tools readily available to trace the shared images back to your IP address. They simply subpoena the internet service provider and get subscriber information for your IP address; they know exactly where to look for you.

Here is a basic overview to give you some more information.

If you have questionable web surfing habits and are concerned that the investigators may pay you a visit in the middle of the night to serve a warrant, DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, TALK TO ANYONE about the matter. Let me repeat. Do not discuss anything about the situation including ownership of any electronic devices. Decline to be recorded.

By James E. Crawford Jr. Esq. | Criminal Defense Attorney